Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Guess There Are No Feminists In the Music Industry

I have a dilemma. It's one that has bothered me for a while now, but it only just became apparent how problematic this problem really is. I copied "Right Round" from my brother's iTunes. I had been listening to it in his car, and I loved the beat. It's a perfect crossover song: it has the pop melody (and Katy Perry-like vocals on the chorus), and it’s done by Flo-Rida who's already established a reputation for making good party songs for rap and R&B fans. What I didn't notice before I downloaded it, was that the song was about a stripper. The lyrics go: "You spin my head right round right round when you go down when you go down down x2/ From the top of the pole, I watch her go down, she got me throwing my money around, ain't nothing more beautiful to be found, it's going down down x2"

Here's my dilemma: despite this very negative representation of women (as sexual objects paid for men's pleasure), I'm reluctant to delete it from my library, because the beat is so good! (this is the point where my mum says "that's how the devil does his work…") I'm most offended because here we have a negative message disguised in a great beat. I'm listening to this, and dancing and singing along, and yet I'm at the same time highly distraught by the image of women it's promoting. Flo-Rida decided to make a number one hit with a song that talks about women as objects. And if you doubt this, why does the song go "ain't nothing more beautiful to be found" as opposed to " ain't no one"? I mean, they could have written completely different lyrics, and the song still would have been good. So why is it that they chose the image of men ballin', flossin' and paying women to objectify themselves? Why must Flo-Rida's second big hit have to be this image? Is it that women who aren't strippers don't sell records?

So when they complain about rap artists singing songs derogatory to women, people usually say, "well you can't blame them, they're catering to a male audience." But this is different because the song is not only catering to a black male audience, it's also catering to a female audience. It's mostly [white] females who listen to Katy Perry, and if you make a song that sounds like her music, you're trying to reach her audience as well. So why sell women an image of themselves that isn't positive? Also, I think we make too many excuses for rap artists. Women listen to hip-hop too, and I'm sure not all black males think that stripping is a worthy profession for a woman. And I don’t think that promoting stripping to either males or females is good in any way. Men will treat all their women like hoes, and women will think being a hoe is okay.

A lot of people at my school have written letters to the student activities committee trying to get them not to bring in rap artists that have music or have done things that are not respectful of women: Ludacris, T.I. , and Akon, specifically. Ludacris and T.I. have performed in the past, Akon is in the running for this year's Spring Fling. I don't know how to feel about this. Akon had that thing with the 15 year-old in Trinidad, and "I Wanna F*** You". However, I can't come up with songs from Ludacris and T.I. that present women in a negative light. Or, at least, where that negative image is the basis of the song. And quite frankly, I like T.I. and Ludacris more than Akon. They make good music. Maybe I ignore the negative images when they come up, because they make good music. Or maybe I accept the fact that men in the music industry will be spending money on prostitutes and strippers because it's part of the lifestyle, and I excuse them because the beat's hot. I feel like if we decided to only listen to rappers that put out only positive images of women in their music, who never mentioned the words, "hoe", "freak", or "bitch" in their music, we'd have very few rap artists to choose from (we'd also eliminate a number of female rap artists), and we'd lose a lot of the great artistry that exists among these negative images and lyrics. However, I do think we should hold rap artists, and the music industry as a whole, to a higher standard, so I don't have to be distraught whenever a song comes on the radio. I just want to appreciate hip-hop - is that too much to ask?

[Note: Some people may argue that not all strippers are hoes, and some women actually enjoy it and find it empowering. I agree. However, a larger proportion of women are forced into stripping for lack of a better job, or in an attempt to make ends meet while trying to get a better job. And those women who are empowered by stripping, and make it classy, are few and far between (and the rap artists that feature these kind of strippers in their videos are even fewer). These women are the exception, not the rule.]

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